Home  /  Everything Else: Article  /  As Jet Li celebrates his 56th birthday, we look back at his top 5 action scenes

As Jet Li celebrates his 56th birthday, we look back at his top 5 action scenes

By Say Peng  /  29 Apr 2019 (Monday)

Think of action stars in the 90s, you'd either think of Jackie Chan or Jet Li.

With critically and commercially acclaimed movies such as 'Hero', 'Unleashed', and 'Cradle 2 the Grave', Jet Li was one of the biggest action stars in the 1990s and 2000s.

He was involved in more than 40 films and even produced about 10 of them.

His action stunts and choreography are amongst the best in the business. Whereas Chan specialized in action comedy stunts, Li's forte was his ability to integrate aggression and grace in his fights. His punches and kicks were forceful, but never blunt, always focused and on-point.

Here are what we think are Li's best 5 action scenes. 

1. Nameless (Jet Li) vs Sky (Donnie Yen) in Zhang Yimou's 'Hero'

This is the best example that showcases Li's grace.

Donnie Yen's Sky tries to dominate the fight by employing aggressive kicks and swings of his spear, but Li's Nameless always gracefully counters Sky's attacks before launching a strategic blow that knocks off Sky.

2. Chen Zhen (Jet Li) vs Fumio Funakochi (Yasuaki Kurata) in 'Fist of Legend'

"Tell me what is the most powerful stroke?" Funakochi asks.

Li picks up a rock, smashes it with one punch, and replies: "Concentrate all your energy on one focal point, then hit!"

That, in essence, summarizes Li's gracefully efficient but aggressive style. 

The fight between Chen and Funakochi is a clean and respectful demonstration of different philosophies in life and martial arts.

The movie is also more nuanced in its treatment of Chinese-Japanese relations. Not all of the Japanese are pure villains as seen in characters such as Funakochi and Chen's Japanese love interest, Mitsuko.

3. Huo (Jet Li) vs Qin Lei (Chen Zhihui) in 'Fearless'

This swords fight scene between Li's Huo and Chen's Lei is aggression to the max.

Set in an old Chinese restaurant, the scene of Huo and Lei's sword fight is a classic case study of well-staged action. 

Christopher McQuarrie, writer-director of 'Mission: Impossible – Fallout', once said that a good action sequence tells a story. This is a great example, thus making it one of the most memorable fight scenes from the movie.

4. Danny the Dog (Jet Li) vs The Stranger (Mike Ian Lambert) in 'Unleashed'

This is the film's final fight scene. It starts off with Danny fighting Bart's henchmen on the open street, and the action progresses to the rooftop before it gets really intense when Danny faces off with the Stranger in a claustrophobic bathroom.

In this scene, the action choreography intentionally shows off Danny's ability to fend off a group of henchmen as well as being able to engage in close-quarter combat with a skilled combatant. It is the highlight of the film.

5. Chen Zhen (Jet Li) vs Huo Ting'en (Chin Siu-ho) in 'Fist of Legend'

Jealous that Chen has become a celebrity after his victory against Akutagawa, Huo challenges Chen to a fight.

The action choreographer behind 'Fist of Legend' is Yuen Woo-ping, who is one of the world's best martial arts choreographer. After watching 'Fist of Legend', the then Wachowski Brothers (now sisters) hired Yuen to do the action choreography for their film 'The Matrix'. Ang Lee also hired Yuen for 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'.

Recently, it seems that Jet Li has not been well. He has come down with hyperthyroidism and his health and body have taken a severe toll.

Recent pictures of Li in Tibet, where the Buddhist Li was visiting a temple, showed the former martial arts star looking a lot older than his years, almost unrecognizable.

We wish Li a happy birthday and a healthy recovery.
You say

Get Showtimes